Maya Lin focuses on ground, water

“Blue Lake Pass,” a large-scale topographical piece in the exhibit, is made of Duraflake particleboard. (credit: Courtesy of The Pace Gallery) “Blue Lake Pass,” a large-scale topographical piece in the exhibit, is made of Duraflake particleboard. (credit: Courtesy of The Pace Gallery)

“An architect, artist, and dedicated environmentalist.”

This is how the gallery guide at the Carnegie Museum of Art describes Maya Lin. Lin is renowned for her pieces all over the world, and is known by many for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1981. The artist’s exhibit, titled Maya Lin, opened on Feb. 11 and is housed on the second floor of the museum in the Heinz Architecture Center.

Entering the exhibit from the side of the grand staircase allows patrons to enjoy an immersive experience. Upon opening the glass doors, Lin’s two themes — ground and water — are juxtaposed on each side of the hallway, with a view of Lin’s 2006 piece “Wire Landscape” straight ahead.

“Wire Landscape” was created from lines of three-dimensional, darkly colored wire. Large in size and hung at eye level, the work naturally draws in viewers because of its location and its contrast to the rest of the pieces in the exhibit.

To the right of the entrance is the ground-themed half of the exhibit, which features a small-scale piece of topography and what Lin calls paper landscapes. These smaller pieces include Manhattan phone books and a Rand McNally atlas that have each been cut into in order to expose the inner pages, creating a similar effect to the topographical work that Lin presents throughout the exhibit. Perched on solid white pedestals, but untouchable, these works allow for an up-close examination of Lin’s technique.
Security personnel and signs abound, reminding patrons that the exhibits are off limits. This method, as opposed to the pieces being surrounded by glass or some other covering, makes the exhibit feel more interactive. Patrons have the ability to get close to the pieces and examine them fully, a detail that is much appreciated. Similarly, a lot of variety exists in how pieces are presented. Some cover the floors, others are staged on pedestals, and still others reach almost to the ceiling.

The water-themed half of the exhibit includes more individual pieces and covers three different rooms. The first room includes a piece mimicking water droplets, a large-scale canvas series, and a piece made of recycled glass. The second room includes three pieces focused on rivers. The final water room contains three-dimensional interpretations of bodies of water. Lin’s “Caspian Sea” appears to defy the laws of gravity with its undersized base and a surface that seems to jut out at the viewer.

“The Pin River — Ohio (Allegheny & Monongahela)” is one of the highlights of the exhibit. Made of nails hammered into a canvas, the piece was created specifically for the show and is Lin’s interpretation of the convergence of Pittsburgh’s famous three rivers. The nails cast interesting shadows on the canvas, crossing each other and appearing darker in some places than others due to the varied quantity of nails on the canvas. Beginning at ground level and reaching toward the ceiling, the piece is huge and very impressive to those familiar with how the three rivers come together, despite their different origins.

Definitely not geared toward younger viewers, Maya Lin has a lot to offer whether you are an experienced art critic or just a student looking to explore a bit of culture. The relaxing environment paired with the secluded location of the exhibit allows viewers the chance to explore for as long as they like and lose themselves in the art.